Leon Taylor
Missouri Department of Corrections

A Missouri inmate, convicted of murdering a local gas station attendant in front of the employee's stepdaughter in 1994, has become the ninth prisoner executed in the state this year, the Associated Press reports.

Leon Taylor, 56, died at 12:22 a.m. Wednesday at a state prison after being given a lethal injection. According to AP, his execution ties the state with its 1999 record for having the most executions in a year.


Taylor was convicted for the 1994 murder of Robert Newton, who was killed in front of Newton's then-8-year-old stepdaughter in Independence, Mo. Taylor tried to kill the child, too, AP reports, but his gun jammed, sparing her life. (She was then locked in a room and left alone, and she later provided essential testimony in the case.) 

"She had the gun turned on her," Assistant Jackson County Prosecutor Michael Hunt told AP, calling the child's testimony at trial crucial in the death sentence. "It didn't fire. If it had fired, we'd have had a double homicide.

"You can imagine what a horrible crime this was, but when you see it coming out of a young person like that, it was hard to listen to," he added.

The report detailed how Taylor, along with his half-brother and half-sister, decided to rob the gas station where 53-year-old Newton was working in April 1994. According to AP, Taylor entered the store with a gun and demanded that Newton put $400 in a bag. His half-brother, Willie Owens, took the money back to the car.


It was then that Taylor ordered Newton and the child to the back room. According to AP, Newton begged Taylor not to kill him in front of the girl, but Taylor shot him in the head. Newton was arrested a week after the crime when police received a tip.

According to the news wire, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon did not grant Taylor a last request for clemency, in which he stated that he had changed in prison, becoming a Christian who helped out other inmates. Taylor was also reportedly abused as a child by his mother, who gave him alcohol from the time he was 5, the clemency petition noted, which led to later substance abuse.


The U.S. Supreme Court also rejected his appeal, even though lawyers argued that the death penalty ruling was unfair, citing Taylor's original deadlocked jury. It was a judge who originally sentenced Taylor to death, but that case was thrown out, and a jury later sentenced Taylor to death.

Read more at CBS News.

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